Group of HIV Drugs Could Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Study Shows

In Education

Recent research from Sanford Burnham Prebys suggests that a group of HIV drugs, called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, could potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Published in Pharmaceuticals, this groundbreaking study offers hope for millions affected by this neurodegenerative condition.

HIV management drugs could help prevent Alzheimer’s

NRTIs inhibit reverse transcriptase (RT), crucial for HIV replication. Recent research suggests RT’s involvement in somatic gene recombination, implicated in Alzheimer’s. This raises the prospect of repurposing NRTIs for Alzheimer’s treatment by targeting RT activity.

The study investigated HIV-positive individuals on RT inhibitors and other antiretroviral therapies as they aged, focusing on Alzheimer’s disease incidence. Lead author Dr. Chun observed a lower occurrence of Alzheimer’s compared to the general population.

Sanford Burnham Prebys researchers examined a large dataset of medical and prescription claims, targeting HIV-positive individuals aged over 60, susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. They categorized the data into three groups: HIV-positive patients on NRTIs, HIV-positive patients not on NRTIs, and HIV-negative control patients not on NRTIs.

Researchers monitored the occurrence of new Alzheimer’s diagnoses among different groups over nearly three years. Upon adjusting for age and sex differences, they found that HIV patients on NRTI therapy had a notably reduced risk of Alzheimer’s compared to the other groups.

The protective effect against Alzheimer’s was most pronounced in patients using NRTIs alone, without protease inhibitors. However, protease inhibitors appeared to negate the benefits of NRTIs, potentially increasing Alzheimer’s risk by blocking enzymes related to amyloid precursor protein.

NRTIs proven safe in older populations

Experts believe that the study’s preliminary findings, though requiring confirmation through randomized clinical trials, present an encouraging proof-of-concept for utilizing NRTIs and their optimized forms in combating Alzheimer’s disease. NRTIs, proven safe in older populations due to their long-term use in HIV patients, hold potential as a preventative measure against cognitive decline in individuals at risk, such as those with mild cognitive impairment, familial Alzheimer’s history, or carrying risk genes like APOE4.

Dr. Chun emphasizes the need for further research to identify specific RT variants in Alzheimer’s and to explore targeted treatments. Prospective clinical trials on early AD patients with existing RT inhibitors are also advocated.

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